The Soul of Nina Simone – CD compilation + same tracks on DVD in PCM stereo plus videos – RCA/Legacy DualDisc

by | Oct 26, 2005 | CD+DVD | 0 comments

The Soul of Nina Simone – CD compilation + same tracks on DVD
in PCM stereo plus nine video performances – RCA/Legacy DualDisc 82876
71973 2 **** (released Oct. 11):

Now this is more like it for the DualDisc format!  Nine actual
videos of the performer on the DVD side, rather than the blurry still
photos and perhaps an interview with the artists found on most DualDisc
thus far. The CD side of the thick disc was rejected by my older CD
player as well as both of my computer CD players, but the DVD side
played fine on my iMac.  The complete 14-track audio 
compilation heard on the CD is repeated on the DVD side in 48K PCM
stereo, which does sound marginally better than the 44.1 CD side. (The
notes refer to “enhanced audio” on this side of the disc.)

This is a terrific introduction to a magnificent performer who passed
away a couple years ago. Nina Simone was known as a defiant and
outspoken black woman of conscience and the 1960s were her prime
decade. Her bitterness is thought to have stemmed from the struggles of
her early upbringing but specifically because after completing a year’s
scholarship at Juilliard (she had hoped to be the first female black
concert pianist) the Curtis Institute turned her away because she was
black. She called her mix of jazz, African rhythms, folk tunes and
classical touches “Black classical music.”

The nine Nina videos are compelling viewing, and had been previously
unreleased commercially.  The first is her initial national
appearance, on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1960, when he gave her a
surprising eight minutes at the piano.  She does a quite amazing
Bachian piano intro to Love Me or Leave Me, then launches into a
searing, touching interpretation of I Loves You Porgy. Next are two
live numbers videotaped at New York’s Bitter End in l968. Finally,
there are four tracks from the 1969 Harlem Festival, dubbed The Black
Woodstock. Simone was at the peak of her intense hell-raising self,
doin’ her thing for her people. Four Women is a musical anthem for the
civil rights movement – picturing a gallery of black archetypes who
share similar scars of racial prejudice. I Got Life from “Hair” gets
her special treatment, and the set ends with the proud To Be Young,
Gifted and Black.  This footage is in color.

The CD compilation includes two tracks from Porgy and Bess: My Man’s
Gone Now, and a concluding extended medley from the opera, which she
transforms into a searing autobiographical number.  The occasion
was the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival. A real surprise is her version of
The Look of Love – a stark contrast to the Dusty Springfield track on
that over-acclaimed soundtrack to Casino Royale. In this one Simone
shows some humor and lightness that disappears from her later work but
her version still sounds skeptical and questioning. Bob Dylan’s Tom
Thumb’s Blues comes across completely differently from its author’s
version. The compilation gives a more varied cross-section of Simone’s
achievements than any of her previous albums and for its bonus videos
is highly recommended. (Don’t count on being able to play the CD side
in your car player however.)

– John Henry

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